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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - Oak Ridge Man Is Back on His Feet Thanks to Methodist Wound Treatment Center

Robert Shim’s problems began simply enough. He noticed what he thought was a sore on his right foot late last spring and he did what many people would.  He scratched it.  The pain he felt afterwards was terrible and other symptoms made him very concerned, he recalled.

The following day, the Oak Ridge resident called his doctor and was told to go to the emergency room. Within two days of discovering the sore, Shim was hospitalized for surgery at Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge.

 “I’d had an infection in my foot for a long time, but I couldn’t feel it because I had neuropathy,” Shim explained. Neuropathy results from nerve damage and can cause numbness in your hands or feet. It can occur as the result of infections, injuries, or exposure to toxins, but the most common cause is diabetes, which was the case with Shim.  

“When your blood sugar is out of whack, you just can’t heal. Sometimes, you don’t even know you have a wound,” he said.

“The doctor had to cut deep,” he recalled. “The wound had almost turned to gangrene, which meant I could have lost my foot. It would have increased my risk of losing the other leg to amputation within a few years. If you’re a double amputee, your quality of life isn’t too good.”

Following surgery, Shim became a patient of Dr. David Stanley and the Methodist Wound Treatment Center in Oak Ridge.

“Diabetes can cause a number of complications including nerve damage and poor blood circulation, which can make the feet vulnerable to sores that can quickly become chronic wounds that are difficult to treat,” Dr. Stanley said. “Many diabetic patients with large abscesses of the foot must have a life-saving below-the-knee amputation.”

Skilled specialty care is necessary for healing, he added. Treatment may include debridement to clean away dead and dying tissue, hyperbaric oxygen treatment to increase blood flow and oxygen to the wound, and Dermagraft or Apligraf treatments to stimulate the patient’s own skin cells.

“Dr. Stanley said a prayer with me and my wife, and started treatment,” Shim recalled. The infection had spread and eventually covered most of the bottom of his foot. “It was eight inches by three inches and one inch deep.”

Stanley initially recommended 90 hyperbaric oxygen treatments, but his patient needed only 67.

“During hyperbaric treatment, the patient lies in one of our hyperbaric chambers and breathes 100 percent pressurized oxygen for approximately 90 minutes,” Dr. Stanley explained. “This enables the person to dissolve more oxygen in the red blood cells and plasma. More oxygen can reach the body’s tissues and promote healing by stimulating new artery growth in the wound.”

Dr. Stanley also cleaned the wound and treated it with several applications of Apligraf, which contains cultured living cells and structural proteins. In addition, the doctor placed Shim in a cast for two weeks to keep the patient off his feet while the healing process was completed.

Shim has had Type II diabetes for the past 15 years and takes an insulin injection every day. Since becoming a patient at the Methodist Wound Treatment Center, he has learned quite a bit about his disease. As a result, he now understands the role that his blood sugar level plays in helping his body heal and the importance of controlling that level.

The extensive treatment has paid off. Shim has completely healed and happy to have two healthy legs.

“I’m so grateful to be where I am right now,” he said.